Tag Archives: walking

Dynamo – the Bradford fan – on beating Arsenal

The Dynamo magic willing giantkillers Bradford all the way to Wembley after shocking Arsenal

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UPDATED:

18:22 GMT, 12 December 2012

Bradford beating Arsenal in the League Cup was a huge shock – but they might have taken the 'magic of the cup' literally with the biggest magical football fan in the world behind them.

Magician Dynamo has been astonishing audiences and stars around the world with his magic tricks.

But he could've pulled off the biggest one of career willing his hometown club Bradford to a win against Arsenal.

Mind games: Bradford fan Dynamo was willing his team to victory over Arsenal

Proud: Bradford fan Dynamo

Mind games: Bradford fan Dynamo was willing his team to victory over Arsenal

Dynamo tweets

Backing: Dynamo took time out from his stage show to support his team last night

Dynamo factfile

His real name is Steven Frayne

He was born in Bradford on December 17, 1982

He first learnt to perform illusions from his grandfather and developed the skill during trips to New Orleans.

Dynamo's first TV appearances were on Richard & Judy, followed by a Channel 4 special entitled Dynamo's Estate Of Mind

In May, 2009, Dynamo levitated Little Britain comedian Matt Lucas four feet off the ground in front of a crowd at the Emirates Stadium.

In June, 2011, Dynamo was photographed apparently walking on water, crossing the River Thames on foot in front of the Palace of Westminster.

He has performed with the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Gary Neville and David Haye.

Later that year, he announced that he had joined the magicians' society the Magic Circle.

The 29-year-old had a claret and
amber bedroom growing up from as early as he can remember – two walls
claret, two amber, Bradford wallpaper and bedspread.

And he said: 'I definitely like to think I had a little in-put. My
main focus last night was the match even though I was on stage doing the
biggest show of my career. I wanted to get off stage to see Bradford.
It was all I could think about, I was willing my team to win.

'I'd like to think Thomas Vermaelen missing that penalty could've been
something to do with me. I'm going to give Bradford the credit they
deserve but I was thinking about them.

'I was invited as a guest of honour,
to walk out on the pitch before the match, and I tried to get my manager
to change my schedule but he said if it was any other event he would
but not this one.'

They
were considering taking a helicopter to make it to the match but the
clash with an annual show at Claridge's Hotel – whose speakers and
performers have included Will and Kate last year and Diana back in 1992 –
made it impossible. But everything in the diary will be shifted if they
make it to the final at Wembley.

The League Two side have won nine penalty shootouts in the past three
years – mysteriously coinciding with the years the Bradford magician has
risen to become a huge performer.

That's magic! Bradford celebrate dramatic victory over Arsenal

That's magic! Bradford celebrate dramatic victory over Arsenal

Trick shots

Dynamo Magician Impossible Series 2 out now on DVD

And Dynamo, real name Steven Frayne, added: ' 'If you check the dates it's probably on a par. If we get to the final and you see any crazy things happening with the ball, that was me.'

Even though he was performing on stage he had an assistant at the side flashing up how the match was going. He had an Arsenal fan friend in the back row and could tell there was a late equaliser when their mood instantly changed.

He will be back in Bradford on Saturday to share in the celebrations – but admitted there is one down side to it all: 'The only thing is this does mean it is going to be more expensive to live my dream to own them one day. But it just means I've got to work harder.'

Keep an eye on Bradford, the magic of the cup means something completely different to them.

Watch the video…

Arsene Wenger should leave Arsenal – Neil Ashton

NEIL ASHTON: Despite the charm, time's up for Wenger… Arsenal need another forward-thinking coach

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UPDATED:

08:48 GMT, 13 December 2012

Robin van Persie was invited into Arsene Wenger’s magnificently appointed home in north London towards the end of last season for talks about his future.

It was a tense meeting, a full and frank exchange between Arsenal manager and captain after another trophyless season at the Emirates.

With a year left on his contract, the top goalscorer in the Barclays Premier League wanted assurances that the Gunners were ready to invest heavily in the squad before committing himself to a new deal.

Wenger was indignant and the offer to keep Van Persie was never made.

Entering the fray: Arsene Wenger walks onto the pitch before the match

Dead man walking: Arsene Wenger at Bradford

Fall guys: Humiliated Arsenal were dumped out of the Capital One Cup to League Two side Bradford City

Fall guys: Humiliated Arsenal were dumped out of the Capital One Cup to League Two side Bradford City

After winning three Premier League
titles and four FA Cups in 16 years at Arsenal, Wenger still rules the
roost. He remains untouchable, even after Tuesday’s shameful defeat in
the Capital One Cup quarter-final at League Two side Bradford City.

A team who cost almost 67million to
assemble were beaten on penalties by a side costing 7,500, despite
boasting internationals from Spain, Germany, France, Belgium, the Ivory
Coast, Wales, England and Poland. Bradford’s two internationals have
played a handful of games for Bermuda and Northern Ireland.

For many Arsenal fans this is the endgame, beyond the point of no return.

Wenger’s observations at Valley
Parade, when he spoke of ‘pride’ and ‘self-belief’, were a smokescreen
for a manager who has been sending distress signals since 2007.

It is time for Arsenal to move on, to
do the unthinkable and thank him for 16 years of loyal service and look
to the future with another forward-thinking coach.

As charming as he
is, Wenger is on the way out as the club’s manager. It is over and an
increasing number of people within the game are beginning to recognise
it.

The one that got away: Wenger emits a rueful smile after reacquainting with Robin van Persie at Old Trafford

The one that got away: Wenger emits a rueful smile after reacquainting with Robin van Persie at Old Trafford

Wenger earns 7.5m a year, and is the
highest-paid boss in the Premier League, yet Arsenal consistently
claim they cannot pay big bucks for players.

They were ahead of the game with
identifying the talents of Juan Mata and David Silva but their dithering
allowed Chelsea and Manchester City to step in and gazump them.

Even contract negotiations with Theo
Walcott, who is expected to be fit for Monday’s Premier League clash at
Reading, have broken down over the club’s pay structure.

Andrey Arshavin, a flop since his
move from Zenit St Petersburg in 2009, earns 110,000 a week all in.
Given the Russian’s pitiful contribution, it is not unreasonable for
Walcott to demand a similar contract, yet Wenger is refusing to meet the
England forward’s demands.

It was also revealed that players are
being asked to agree clauses in their contracts about a 20 per cent
reduction in salary if they fail to make the Champions League.

It seems inconceivable that Jack
Wilshere, England’s most exciting young player, who is about to enter
talks over a new contract to increase his 70,000-a-week package, will
agree to such a clause.

Bright hope: Jack Wilshere has announced he is committed to Arsenal - but what will happen if the club continues its downward trend

Bright hope: Jack Wilshere has announced he is committed to Arsenal – but what will happen if the club continues its downward trend

Wenger, known to avoid confrontation,
delegates contract negotiations to trusted advisor Dick Law following
the decision to fire his ally David Dein as vice-chairman in April 2007.
Dallas-based Law is the club’s transfer fixer, regularly sending emails
at 3am US time to fit in with the working day in London.

The coaching structure is
complicated, with assistant manager Steve Bould apparently marginalised
despite his promotion this season.

At 63, Wenger remains convinced he
can improve the players, taking training every day and planning every
move in meticulous detail.

Bould, a former Arsenal defender,
deserved his chance after 11 years with the academy and reserves but he
is largely ignored by Wenger. The pair are understood to have limited
communication and the distance between them is so big that, when the
boss missed training the day before Arsenal were beaten 2-0 at home by
Swansea, fitness coach Tony Colbert took the session.

Bould’s appointment, on 1.5m a year,
was heavily influenced by the Arsenal board following the retirement of
Wenger’s trusted assistant Pat Rice at the end of last season.

Rice is still a club scout but others
are frustrated by Wenger’s failure to take notice of the detailed
reports they provide on players. Gervinho, who won the French league and
cup double before he joined from Lille in 2011, was recommended by
chief scout Steve Rowley after coming to the attention of French talent
spotter Gilles Grimandi.

Out of sorts: Gervinho has failed to shine in an Arsenal shirt since his arrival from Lille

Out of sorts: Gervinho has failed to shine in an Arsenal shirt since his arrival from Lille

He scored 28 goals in 67 league games
for Lille but the Ivory Coast forward has rarely threatened to make a
major impact at Arsenal.

Left back Andre Santos, a surprise signing from Fenerbahce in 2011, is another mystery to the scouts.

Other coaches, like Bould, are
bypassed. Neil Banfield, promoted to first-team coach after years at the
academy, is paid a 1m salary but has little input in first-team
affairs.

Former coaches are made to sign confidentiality agreements not to talk about Wenger’s methods.

The club used to outsource fitness
checks to a specialist company at a cost of 750,000 but the Frenchman
disagreed with results after he was warned players were being
overworked.

Wenger was ahead of his time with
sports science, diet and training methods when he arrived from Nagoya
Grampus Eight in 1996. More than a decade later there is a growing
feeling the rest of the Premier League have left him behind.

The manager is proud of his
development strategy but one could argue that, in his 16 years, Ashley
Cole and Wilshere are the only bona fide graduates from the fabled Hale
End academy who have become first team regulars.

He points to the careers of Steven
Sidwell, James Harper, David Bentley, Fabrice Muamba, Anthony Stokes and
the Hoyte brothers as evidence of his success with young players.
Others at the club believe there is little point producing players to
play for other clubs.

Where are they now Former Arsenal academy graduate David Bentley is on loan from Tottenham at FC Rostov

Where are they now Former Arsenal academy graduate David Bentley is on loan from Tottenham at FC Rostov

It is an open secret at Arsenal Wenger and youth development coach Liam Brady rarely speak.
At the London Colney training centre, which was ahead of its time when
built 12 years ago, there has been a noticeable shift in Wenger’s
demeanour.

During the glory years at the turn of
the millennium, for example, first-team players would regularly tease
Kanu about the mystery surrounding his actual birthdate.

Wenger, who signed the Nigeria
striker from Inter Milan in 1999, would laugh along, telling him: ‘Kanu,
you know you are supposed to add a year, not subtract one.’

That was when Wenger could still rely
on the famous back four as they charged towards the Premier League and
FA Cup double in 2002.

Today he has tightened up, wrapping himself in his Arsenal jacket and feeling the pressure after seven years without a trophy.

Some believe the decline began with
William Gallas’s infamous sitdown protest after they drew 2-2 against
Birmingham but they beat AC Milan in the Champions League with goals
from Cesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Adebayor in the San Siro a few days
later.

Others trace the slide back to Wenger’s decision to break up the team beaten by Barcelona in the 2006 Champions League final.

Wenger always insists he is judged at the end of the season. Sadly, the verdict is already in.

Bradford v Arsenal: Costs & caps

Has Arsene Wenger reached the end of the line at Arsenal – Neil Ashton

NEIL ASHTON: Is defiant Wenger reaching the end of the line at Arsenal

|

UPDATED:

01:34 GMT, 13 December 2012

Robin van Persie was invited into Arsene Wenger’s magnificently appointed home in north London towards the end of last season for talks about his future.

It was a tense meeting, a full and frank exchange between Arsenal manager and captain after another trophyless season at the Emirates.

With a year left on his contract, the top goalscorer in the Barclays Premier League wanted assurances that the Gunners were ready to invest heavily in the squad before committing himself to a new deal.

Wenger was indignant and the offer to keep Van Persie was never made.

Entering the fray: Arsene Wenger walks onto the pitch before the match

Dead man walking: Arsene Wenger at Bradford

Fall guys: Humiliated Arsenal were dumped out of the Capital One Cup to League Two side Bradford City

Fall guys: Humiliated Arsenal were dumped out of the Capital One Cup to League Two side Bradford City

After winning three Premier League
titles and four FA Cups in 16 years at Arsenal, Wenger still rules the
roost. He remains untouchable, even after Tuesday’s shameful defeat in
the Capital One Cup quarter-final at League Two side Bradford City.

A team who cost almost 67million to
assemble were beaten on penalties by a side costing 7,500, despite
boasting internationals from Spain, Germany, France, Belgium, the Ivory
Coast, Wales, England and Poland. Bradford’s two internationals have
played a handful of games for Bermuda and Northern Ireland.

For many Arsenal fans this is the endgame, beyond the point of no return.

Wenger’s observations at Valley
Parade, when he spoke of ‘pride’ and ‘self-belief’, were a smokescreen
for a manager who has been sending distress signals since 2007.

It is time for Arsenal to move on, to
do the unthinkable and thank him for 16 years of loyal service and look
to the future with another forward-thinking coach. As charming as he
is, Wenger is on the way out as the club’s manager. It is over and an
increasing number of people within the game are beginning to recognise
it.

The one that got away: Wenger emits a rueful smile after reacquainting with Robin van Persie at Old Trafford

The one that got away: Wenger emits a rueful smile after reacquainting with Robin van Persie at Old Trafford

Wenger earns 7.5m a year, and is the
highest-paid boss in the Premier League, yet Arsenal consistently
claim they cannot pay big bucks for players.

They were ahead of the game with
identifying the talents of Juan Mata and David Silva but their dithering
allowed Chelsea and Manchester City to step in and gazump them.

Even contract negotiations with Theo
Walcott, who is expected to be fit for Monday’s Premier League clash at
Reading, have broken down over the club’s pay structure.

Andrey Arshavin, a flop since his
move from Zenit St Petersburg in 2009, earns 110,000 a week all in.
Given the Russian’s pitiful contribution, it is not unreasonable for
Walcott to demand a similar contract, yet Wenger is refusing to meet the
England forward’s demands.

It was also revealed that players are
being asked to agree clauses in their contracts about a 20 per cent
reduction in salary if they fail to make the Champions League.

It seems inconceivable that Jack
Wilshere, England’s most exciting young player, who is about to enter
talks over a new contract to increase his 70,000-a-week package, will
agree to such a clause.

Bright hope: Jack Wilshere has announced he is committed to Arsenal - but what will happen if the club continues its downward trend

Bright hope: Jack Wilshere has announced he is committed to Arsenal – but what will happen if the club continues its downward trend

Wenger, known to avoid confrontation,
delegates contract negotiations to trusted advisor Dick Law following
the decision to fire his ally David Dein as vice-chairman in April 2007.
Dallas-based Law is the club’s transfer fixer, regularly sending emails
at 3am US time to fit in with the working day in London.

The coaching structure is
complicated, with assistant manager Steve Bould apparently marginalised
despite his promotion this season.

At 63, Wenger remains convinced he
can improve the players, taking training every day and planning every
move in meticulous detail.

Bould, a former Arsenal defender,
deserved his chance after 11 years with the academy and reserves but he
is largely ignored by Wenger. The pair are understood to have limited
communication and the distance between them is so big that, when the
boss missed training the day before Arsenal were beaten 2-0 at home by
Swansea, fitness coach Tony Colbert took the session.

Bould’s appointment, on 1.5m a year,
was heavily influenced by the Arsenal board following the retirement of
Wenger’s trusted assistant Pat Rice at the end of last season.

Rice is still a club scout but others
are frustrated by Wenger’s failure to take notice of the detailed
reports they provide on players. Gervinho, who won the French league and
cup double before he joined from Lille in 2011, was recommended by
chief scout Steve Rowley after coming to the attention of French talent
spotter Gilles Grimandi.

Out of sorts: Gervinho has failed to shine in an Arsenal shirt since his arrival from Lille

Out of sorts: Gervinho has failed to shine in an Arsenal shirt since his arrival from Lille

He scored 28 goals in 67 league games
for Lille but the Ivory Coast forward has rarely threatened to make a
major impact at Arsenal.

Left back Andre Santos, a surprise signing from Fenerbahce in 2011, is another mystery to the scouts.

Other coaches, like Bould, are
bypassed. Neil Banfield, promoted to first-team coach after years at the
academy, is paid a 1m salary but has little input in first-team
affairs.

Former coaches are made to sign confidentiality agreements not to talk about Wenger’s methods.

The club used to outsource fitness
checks to a specialist company at a cost of 750,000 but the Frenchman
disagreed with results after he was warned players were being
overworked.

Wenger was ahead of his time with
sports science, diet and training methods when he arrived from Nagoya
Grampus Eight in 1996. More than a decade later there is a growing
feeling the rest of the Premier League have left him behind.

The manager is proud of his
development strategy but one could argue that, in his 16 years, Ashley
Cole and Wilshere are the only bona fide graduates from the fabled Hale
End academy who have become first team regulars.

He points to the careers of Steven
Sidwell, James Harper, David Bentley, Fabrice Muamba, Anthony Stokes and
the Hoyte brothers as evidence of his success with young players.
Others at the club believe there is little point producing players to
play for other clubs.

Where are they now Former Arsenal academy graduate David Bentley is on loan from Tottenham at FC Rostov

Where are they now Former Arsenal academy graduate David Bentley is on loan from Tottenham at FC Rostov

It is an open secret at Arsenal Wenger and youth development coach Liam Brady rarely speak.
At the London Colney training centre, which was ahead of its time when
built 12 years ago, there has been a noticeable shift in Wenger’s
demeanour.

During the glory years at the turn of
the millennium, for example, first-team players would regularly tease
Kanu about the mystery surrounding his actual birthdate.

Wenger, who signed the Nigeria
striker from Inter Milan in 1999, would laugh along, telling him: ‘Kanu,
you know you are supposed to add a year, not subtract one.’

That was when Wenger could still rely
on the famous back four as they charged towards the Premier League and
FA Cup double in 2002.

Today he has tightened up, wrapping himself in his Arsenal jacket and feeling the pressure after seven years without a trophy.

Some believe the decline began with
William Gallas’s infamous sitdown protest after they drew 2-2 against
Birmingham but they beat AC Milan in the Champions League with goals
from Cesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Adebayor in the San Siro a few days
later.

Others trace the slide back to Wenger’s decision to break up the team beaten by Barcelona in the 2006 Champions League final.

Wenger always insists he is judged at the end of the season. Sadly, the verdict is already in.

Bradford v Arsenal: Costs & caps

Pep Guardiola targets Premier League jobs

Guardiola stalks Premier bosses as Spaniard plots return to football next summer

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UPDATED:

22:35 GMT, 3 November 2012

Pep Guardiola has told friends he wants to sort out his footballing future in January or February — which will leave one top Premier League manager as a dead man walking.

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini is already having to defend himself against suggestions that the arrival of ex-Barcelona staff Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain as chief executive and sporting director means Guardiola’s appointment is also imminent.

But Mancini won’t be alone in looking over his shoulder.

On the move: Pep Guardiola could be heading for the Premier League

On the move: Pep Guardiola could be heading for the Premier League

Roberto Di Matteo may suspect his days at Chelsea are numbered if Roman Abramovich realises that he must move this winter to secure his dream coach.

And even the fading Arsene Wenger might feel it is time to step aside if he knows this is Arsenal’s big chance to recruit Guardiola.

A source close to former Barcelona coach Guardiola said: ‘Pep is definitely coming back into football next season and he wants to have his future decided in this coming January or by February at the latest.

Under pressure: Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini could be replaced

Under pressure: Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini could be replaced

‘He won’t take over at his next club until the summer. But things have to happen long before then. When you are a top coach, you don’t wait until the summer. You want to see moves being made to start shaping your new club your way. You want transfer targets identified early. Long before the new season starts, Pep will want to know that his future is clear and his new club is on the same wavelength as him.

‘Pep is in New York for a year and you can imagine how good his English will be by the time he comes back into football, so the Premier League is a very strong option for him.’

On borrowed time Roberto Di Matteo could also be under threat

On borrowed time Roberto Di Matteo could also be under threat

Gloucester chairman Ryan Walkinshaw has faith in a big future

He may be an outspoken atheist but Gloucester chairman Ryan has faith

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UPDATED:

22:13 GMT, 26 October 2012

Ryan Walkinshaw does not confirm to the stereotype image of a club chairman, to put it mildly.

The man in charge of Gloucester is 24, a globe-trotting business prodigy, renowned DJ, science enthusiast and out-spoken atheist.

But don’t doubt the rugby passion, inherited from his late father, Tom. /10/26/article-0-15B35028000005DC-936_634x431.jpg” width=”634″ height=”431″ alt=”Master planner: Gloucester chairman Ryan Walkinshaw” class=”blkBorder” />

Master planner: Gloucester chairman Ryan Walkinshaw

He can’t be at a packed, partisan Kingsholm on Saturday for the visit of Leicester, as he is away in Delhi on business. Several of the players wearing the fabled Cherry and White shirts will be older than their boss, but years of expert advice prepared him for the role he has taken on so young, and there is real clarity and conviction in his vision for the club.

Speaking to Sportsmail at Heathrow, just prior to departure, Walkinshaw fittingly revealed that he is ready to broaden Gloucester’s horizons. ‘As a club we are at one of those tipping points,’ he said. ‘We can either come up with new strategies to enhance and extend our brand both nationally and internationally, or we can conserve what we’ve got, refine it slightly and maintain it.

‘We’ve got an aggressive plan to take us forward. There is so much potential. We had the second-highest average attendance last season and we’re one of only two clubs, along with Northampton, who made a profit. Hopefully we can get back into the Heineken Cup next season and that will give us a great platform for further growth.

Major star: Jimmy Cowan

Major star: Jimmy Cowan

Harlequins’ CEO told me the other day
that when he goes to South Africa or Japan, he would be quite happy to
see a few people walking down the street wearing Quins shirts. That is
how I feel about Gloucester. I think there is great potential to start
developing rugby in Asia, not necessarily as “Gloucester” but as a
sub-brand based on Gloucester.

The club’s global status would be considerably enhanced if Kingsholm is chosen to stage World Cup 2015 matches, having made it on to the ‘long list’ of potential venues. The chairman hopes that the enthusiasm for rugby in the region and the recent hosting of international games at the ground – with Fiji playing Gloucester there next month – will help them make the final cut.

Of course, this talk of the brand has to have a basis in the team and on-field success. In that regard, the signs for Gloucester are encouraging, after what Walkinshaw describes as the ‘debacle’ of Bryan Redpath’s sudden resignation as director of rugby late last season.

Armed with new recruits such as England No 8 Ben Morgan, former Tigers centre Billy Twelvetrees and ex-All Black scrum half Jimmy Cowan, the West Country club have hit their stride quickly and are currently fifth in the league.

Their revival has been impressively over-seen by Welshman Nigel Davies, who was recruited from the Scarlets in the summer. He has been able to harness the ability of so many talented young local players coming through into the senior team – promising products of the academy at Hartpury College.

Walkinshaw recognises the hunger and commitment they bring. ‘It comes down to the fact that the guys who give you that extra 10 per cent are the guys who care about the badge,’ he said.

When it comes to caring for the badge, the club and the sport, Walkinshaw has picked up the baton from his father, who died in 2010 after a three-year battle against cancer. While Tom grew up playing rugby in Glasgow when he wasn’t racing cars, Ryan attended Radley College in Oxfordshire, a few years after former England cricket captain Andrew Strauss.

Looking good: James Simpson-Daniel in action for Gloucester during their win over Bordeaux last weekend

Looking good: James Simpson-Daniel in action for Gloucester during their win over Bordeaux last weekend

‘I played in the 1st XV at school,’
he said. ‘I was pack leader; a hooker. I was known to be a bit of a
****. I got a lot of yellow and red cards – I was pretty angry, but I
loved it.’

He went on to
study history at Oxford University, but dropped out and switched to a
business management and marketing course in Newcastle. In the mean-time,
he had been making a name for himself as a DJ in the UK and Ibiza, and
had set up a record label and nightclub promotions business. Having
spent long periods gaining first-hand experience in his father’s
automotive companies and at Gloucester, Walkinshaw soon realised that
the course wasn’t teaching him anything he didn’t already know, so he
left to start work.

Now, as a young businessman and rugby chairman, he admits that the age factor is a double-edged sword. ‘In some ways it has been beneficial, in other ways it has been a hindrance,’ he said. ‘I believe respect is earned over a long period of time, doing the right things, but at my age I know I have to do that little bit more to show people I’m worthy of their respect.’

Walkinshaw has been unable to attend any Premiership Rugby board meetings since taking over as Gloucester chairman in May, due to commitments overseas. When he does, the established figures around him can expect the newcomer to speak his mind. He certainly does on Twitter, on a range of subjects. A staple topic is the ridiculing of Mitt Romney and the Republican party in America. His scorn is based on their often zealous religious stance, which he is at turns mystified and incensed by. ‘I hate the word “belief”,’ he said. ‘I think about things scientifically.

Over the line: Billy Twelvetrees scores a try against Bordeaux

Over the line: Billy Twelvetrees scores a try against Bordeaux

‘I read a lot of books about science and the history of religion. One of my heroes is Christopher Hitchens, who was a game-changing anti-religious writer – showing it up for what it is. I don’t understand why someone can spout their God stuff, but atheists have always had to keep quiet.

‘Just because you have an opinion, it doesn’t mean it has to be respected unless it is supported by evidence. We live in the most exciting time in the history of the sciences. Reading about that is far more exciting than reading about a burning bush or a guy who builds an Ark.’

Whether or not Walkinshaw’s fascination with science and dismissal of religion will ever have a bearing on his running of Gloucester is unclear. In truth, it’s unlikely. But it shows he has the courage of his convictions and that can only be good for his club.

St Louis Rams cheerleaders visit Abbey Road

Abbey days as NFL cheerleaders Come Together to visit famous Beatles landmark

|

UPDATED:

14:07 GMT, 24 October 2012

Anyone walking down the world-famous Abbey Road on Wednesday morning would have been left in no doubt that the NFL is back in town.

The glamorous St Louis Rams cheerleaders were spotted, like many a good tourist before them, walking in the footsteps of The Beatles across that iconic zebra crossing.

The Rams and the Patriots will go head to head at Wembley on Sunday in a regular-season game – the fifth time two American Football sides have crossed the Atlantic to do battle in London.

Look familiar The St Louis Rams mascot and cheerleaders cross Abbey Road on Wednesday

Look familiar The St Louis Rams mascot and cheerleaders cross Abbey Road on Wednesday

World famous: The iconic album cover for the Beatles' 1969 album, Abbey Road

World famous: The iconic album cover for the Beatles' 1969 album, Abbey Road

To celebrate their arrival on these
shores the Rams' cheerleaders were pictured aping the front cover of one
of the most celebrated albums of all time.

It was a fine way to Come Together
with their British cousins but were the girls heard exclaiming 'Here
Comes the Sun' In these grey October skies there's as much chance of
that as spotting an octopus in a garden.

Mystery tour: The St Louis Rams cheerleaders follow in the Beatles' footsteps

Mystery tour: The St Louis Rams cheerleaders follow in the Beatles' footsteps

Look familiar The St Louis Rams mascot and cheerleaders cross Abbey Road on Wednesday

Meanwhile, the Rams' players were
spotted further north stepping up their preparations for the big game at
Arsenal's London Colney training base.

And they had one particularly
interested spectator overlooking their training in the form of Arsenal
and England midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Football, but not as they know it: The Rams prepare for the game at Arsenal's training ground, London Colney

Football, but not as they know it: The Rams prepare for the game at Arsenal's training ground, London Colney

Football, but not as they know it: The Rams prepare for the game at Arsenal's training ground, London Colney

Football, but not as they know it: The Rams prepare for the game at Arsenal's training ground, London Colney

Since 2007, nine teams have played in London since the first annual game between the Miami Dolphins and the New York Giants.

And if the early signs are anything to go
by, London's NFL fans are guaranteed to enjoy a Fab Four quarters' worth
of rough and tumble, American style, on Sunday.

Star man: Rams quarterback Sam Bradford (second right) talks tactics with his team-mates

Star man: Rams quarterback Sam Bradford (second right) talks tactics with his team-mates

Catch it if you can: Running back Terrance Ganaway in action during training at London Colney

Catch it if you can: Running back Terrance Ganaway in action during training at London Colney

Interested observer: Arsenal midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (right) watches the NFL stars train

Interested observer: Arsenal midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (right) watches the NFL stars train

Steve Kean was a dead man walking – Michael Walker on the road

Kean a dead man walking – away from the madness

By
Michael Walker

PUBLISHED:

21:00 GMT, 30 September 2012

|

UPDATED:

21:00 GMT, 30 September 2012

The call they had been expecting for months came as a surprise. The players of Blackburn Rovers were midway through their evening meal on Friday at the team’s hotel when they were informed that knives and forks had to be put down, that then-manager Steve Kean wanted to speak to them.

‘We knew something was wrong,’ explained the young Rovers midfielder Jason Lowe.

‘We were halfway through our dinner when the team meeting was called. Then we had an idea. It wasn’t very nice – a horrible way to do it.’

Dead man walking: Steve Kean had been on borrowed time at Blackburn

Dead man walking: Steve Kean had been on borrowed time at Blackburn

Kean told the Blackburn players that, after almost two years in position at Ewood Park, if not in charge, he was no longer their manager. In a later statement, Kean used the word ‘untenable’.

Eric Black, Kean’s assistant, took on the caretaker role that used to be Tony Parkes’ domain at Ewood and Black said: ‘Steve wanted to speak to everybody at the same time. It was a sombre atmosphere. The players were disappointed. They all shook his hand.’

Black had to pick a team for Saturday’s game at Charlton, which may well have been the same one that Kean would have selected.

Black, 49 on Monday, has managed Motherwell and Coventry and did not rule himself out of the Blackburn job, but one imagines he is considered too close to Kean by the hierarchy and supporters to be a contender.

Besides, Black has seen Blackburn from the inside and, however messy it appears from afar, you can bet it will look worse from within.

All square: Blackburn couldn't hold on to their lead at Charlton

All square: Blackburn couldn't hold on to their lead at Charlton

‘I’ve seen things which I didn’t think I would see,’ said Black. ‘I won’t elaborate. It’s the crazy world of football.’

Gael Givet, for example, did not reappear for the second half against Charlton. Givet looked irritated as he walked towards the tunnel at half-time, removing his shirt.

Black was asked if Givet, who suffered heart palpitations last season, had an injury.

‘No,’ replied Black. ‘It wasn’t an injury.’ Was it a tactical decision ‘No, it wasn’t a tactical decision.’

Hmmm.

Lowe spoke of the ‘great spirit brewing in that dressing room’ and there was no lack of commitment in a most average match. But it would be no shock to discover that, with the influx of nationalities and signings (some not made by Kean), there are divisions.

Shebby Singh, Blackburn’s ‘global advisor’ as appointed by the Venky’s ownership, was at the Valley to see Dickson Etuhu give Rovers the lead and Johnnie Jackson’s home equaliser. Singh was thought to be seeking a meeting with Black on Sunday.

Mystery: Givet (left) storms off at half-time shadowed by Black (right)

Mystery: Givet (left) storms off at half-time shadowed by Black (right)

It may well have entailed confirmation that Black will be in charge for Wednesday’s trip to Nottingham Forest because, unless Tim Sherwood resigns from his coaching job at Tottenham, getting the former Rovers captain from White Hart Lane may take time. If Spurs chairman Daniel Levy gets his way, it may also take money.

But Sherwood is a solid favourite to be Blackburn’s fourth manager since Mark Hughes left in 2008. It is thought he wants the job and it is now about getting matters across the line. On Sunday, as is the way of things, Sherwood played it down. ‘Just rumours,’ he said.

In the meantime, the club have been inundated with applications. Dozens apparently, from all across the continent, including from former Chelsea full back Albert Ferrer, who had a one-season stint as manager of Vitesse Arnhem.

Italian Silvio Baldini, last seen at Vicenza in Serie B, is another believed to have expressed an interest. Then there is Mick McCarthy, experienced and available. Craig Short, briefly manager of Notts County, had six years as a player at Ewood and has been mentioned. As has Alan Shearer.

In contention: Shearer (left) has been mooted as a potential replacement for Kean

In contention: Shearer (left) has been mooted as a potential replacement for Kean

Shearer would certainly fit the ‘global’ aspect of Singh’s remit. He, like Sherwood, would also spark a local reaction and sell tickets. Rovers have had only one Saturday home game this season and there were 14,000 to see Leicester.

On Saturday Wolves are the visitors. The last time Rovers and Wolves met at this level on a Saturday, in November 2000, there were 20,380 present.
Crowds above 20,000 would show how many have stayed away during Kean’s sour era. It was his 45th birthday on Sunday. By doing what he did on Friday night, at least Kean was spared shaking hands with the referee at Charlton, Darren Deadman.

What about fans' abuse

Charlton Athletic have a warm, family reputation and there was a happy-clappy, half-time greeting for former player Allan Simonsen, the former European Footballer of the Year who somehow left Barcelona for Charlton in 1982 – arguably the strangest transfer in history.

Simonsen’s reception contrasted with that of another former player, Danny Murphy. Blackburn’s Murphy had 18 months at Charlton in between his Liverpool and Tottenham phases.

It is hard to imagine Murphy being awful at Charlton and yet the abuse he received on Saturday was just that. It was personal and, while some of the abusers might say it was ‘banter’, Murphy cannot have heard it that way.

Footballers are lectured about their behaviour; what about the fans

Wolves 1 Sheffield Wednesday 0: Bakary Sako strike seals win

Wolves 1 Sheffield Wednesday 0: Sako strike maintains Wanderers' progress

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UPDATED:

16:34 GMT, 29 September 2012

Bakary Sako's free-kick continued Wolves' fine form in the npower Championship and extended struggling Sheffield Wednesday's woes.

The Frenchman's winner came in contentious circumstances just before the break, having found the net at the second attempt after being booked for taking an initial wayward effort before the referee's whistle.

Wolves were just about worthy of the three points from what was an ordinary encounter in the Black Country, with the second half turning into a non-event.

On the run: Michail Antonio of Sheffield Wednesday (right) is pursued by Karl Henry of Wolves

On the run: Michail Antonio of Sheffield Wednesday (right) is pursued by Karl Henry of Wolves

Match facts

WOLVES: Ikeme, Ward, Johnson, Berra, Foley, Henry, Sako, Boukhari (Peszko 14), Doumbia, Ebanks-Blake, Doyle.

Subs Not Used: De Vries, Stearman, Batth, Edwards, Peszko, Davis, Sigurdarson

Goals: Sako 43

Booked: Berra, Sako

SHEFF WED: Kirkland, Gardner, Taylor, Mattock, Semedo, Antonio, J Johnson, Barkley, O'Grady, Pecnik, Bothroyd.

Subs Not Used: /09/29/article-2210393-1543F1CB000005DC-257_306x423.jpg” width=”306″ height=”423″ alt=”Calm under pressure: Roger Johnson of Wolves (right) looks composed as Michail Antonio closes” class=”blkBorder” />

Calm under pressure: Roger Johnson of Wolves (right) looks composed as Michail Antonio closes

The Frenchman, with a free-kick on
the edge of the area, tried to get away with a cheeky chipped effort
before being given clearance by the referee's whistle and, having seen
the ball drift wide, received a yellow card for his misdemeanour.

But he was handed a second bite of
the cherry and from the retaken set-piece fired straight under the wall
and into the bottom corner.

The second half started at walking pace and continued in very much the same fashion.

There was very little to trouble
either goalkeeper as Wolves, without seriously threatening a second,
looked comfortable with their one-goal advantage.

Kirkland and, more crucially, opposite number Ikeme were largely spectators without an attacking threat from either side.

And with the expected late push from
the Owls failing to really materialise, aside from a brief surge in
injury time, it was Wolves who claimed three routine points at the final
whistle.

London 2012 Olympics: Chinese on a long march to world domination

Chinese on a long march to world domination

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UPDATED:

22:01 GMT, 31 July 2012

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LIVE RESULTS |
EVENT SCHEDULE |
MEDALS TABLE

Yi Jianlian, a 7ft tall former NBA basketball player, carried the Chinese flag into the Olympics opening ceremony.

He was the eighth successive
representative of his sport to fulfil the flag-bearing role since China
sent their first full team to an Olympics, in Los Angeles in 1984. It is
the height that wins them the job, a symbol of how the world's most
populous nation wants to be seen standing tall in the world.

That march through the Olympic Stadium on
Friday night has continued unabated through these Games. So far they
have amassed 11 gold medals from diving, gymnastics, shooting, swimming
and weightlifting, six silver and three bronze.

Walking tall: Yi Jianlian leads China at the Opening Ceremony

Walking tall: Yi Jianlian leads China at
the Opening Ceremony

Attention has focused most specifically on the 16-year-old swimming phenomenon Ye Shiwen and how she swam the final 50 metres freestyle leg of her 400 individual medley race faster than Ryan Lochte managed in the men's equivalent just minutes earlier. It was a performance that caused her to deny accusations of drug taking.

She was supported by Lord Coe, chairman of the London Olympics. 'You have to be very careful jumping to the conclusion that a great breakthrough in sport is down to anything other than great coaching, hard work and formidable talent,' he said.

'The balance of judgment always has to be given to the athlete. I can think of times in my own career where I took big chunks of time off world records. I broke the record of Alberto Juantorena – one of the greatest 800m runners of all time – and I know people questioned that. People were saying nobody's run the first lap that fast, nobody's held on that well down the back straight.

'In 1979 my personal best was a smidgeon under 1:44. /07/31/article-2181807-144DFFD1000005DC-282_468x495.jpg” width=”468″ height=”495″ alt=”Big star: China's Yi Jianlian (left)” class=”blkBorder” />

Big star: China's Yi Jianlian (left)

Big star: Swimming sensation Ye Shiwen

Big star: Swimming sensation Ye Shiwen

Suspicions will linger about Ye but Coe is right that hard work is driving the whole Chinese machine, as well as limitless funding and a cultural structure that could not be applied in Britain.

China has what amounts to a national sports machine in the image of the old Eastern Bloc. Children as young as six are tested for their size, flexibility and skills. The sporty youngsters are then sent away to one of 3,000 schools and fed up the structure from local level to state, regional and national schools.

I stood in a table tennis hall at a school in central Beijing. There were rows of tables, minimally 100 in all. Earnest kids fine-tuned their skills. This focus is replicated in other sports. The likes of diving and gymnastics, with emphasis on suppleness and balance, are grouped together.

'Winning pride at the Olympics' was the name given to the project when Beijing won the right to stage the 2008 Games. So successful has it been that 28 years after the Chinese first entered as a proper delegation they are the strongest Olympic nation.

The medal table from Beijing told the story of their triumph: China won 51 gold medals, the USA 36. Some believed that the haul was a Chinese zenith, a one-off for a home Games.

All gold: Chinese gymnasts

All gold: Chinese gymnasts…

... and divers

… and divers

That appears not to be the case, judging by how the London Olympics have begun. China have yet to scale their Everest. They still have scope to improve in other sports over the next few years: track and field, rowing, sailing and swimming. They could also turn their attention to team sports, having not sought to prioritise those because the medal rewards are fewer. For example, women's football, a big deal to America, represents an inefficient investment with a return of one medal per squad of 18.

With a population of 1.3 billion, they can do what they like. It is essentially a numbers game.

Gold medalist: Siling Yi

Gold medalist: Siling Yi

Can anyone stop them American sport lives off sponsorship rather than government subsidy, so they must find ways to be smarter: better coaching and recruitment. They could also, like China, embrace sports they largely neglect: rowing (other than the eight, which they love), shooting, canoeing, shooting, table tennis, archery, badminton. Strangely, the American public, as opposed to their Olympic Association, are blind to the emergence of China dominance.

That is partly because the American convention is to present the medal table in order of medals won rather than first counting the number of golds. On that score, they triumphed in Beijing 110 to 100.

All the while, China are being shrewd in pouring money into women's sport because it is relatively poorly funded around the world. The majority of their Olympic team are women.

The objections to the Chinese model are obvious. They take children away from their families and factory-produce athletes.

The other side of that is that the chosen ones, usually poor, are fed and cared for. Some fame and some money is their reward for ultimate success.

Criticism of the Chinese juggernaut prompted defensive comments in the China Daily newspaper yesterday. 'Our athletes are not medal machines,' said one contributor.

'They are supposed to enjoy the Games and make people want to join in sport.

'People feel proud for them no matter what results they get as long as they did their best. No one is a failure in the Olympics.

'China used to use gold medals to prove we are a strong nation and gain respect from others. We don't need that any more.'

In truth, the Chinese model defies the ethos of sport as we know it in Britain. It is force feeding rather than fun. It is also, for now and the foreseeable future, the way to dominate the Olympic world.

London 2012 Olympics: Oscar Pistorius to compete

Blade runner Pistorius to make history after inclusion in South Africa's Olympic team

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UPDATED:

12:26 GMT, 4 July 2012

Oscar Pistorius will become the first amputee sprinter to compete in the Olympics after being selected for South Africa's 4×400 metres relay team.

Double amputee Pistorius, known as the 'Blade Runner' due to the prosthetic carbon fibre limbs he uses, narrowly missed out on a place in the individual event by just 0.22seconds last week.

But Pistorius, who will also compete at the Paralympics, was today named in a 13-strong group of athletes by the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee that completes their team for London 2012.

Going for gold: Oscar Pistorius will compete in the mens 4x400m relay in London

Going for gold: Oscar Pistorius will compete in the mens 4x400m relay in London

The news is a huge boost for 25-year-old Pistorius following his disappointment in the individual competition.

He had already clocked an Olympic 'A'
standard time earlier this year but was unable to reach the mark again
in an international meeting, as stipulated by the national federation's
qualifying rules.

Walking tall: Pistorius in London

Walking tall: Pistorius in London

Needing a time of 45.30secs in the African Championships in Benin on Friday, he managed 45.52s in his second-placed finish.

Tweeting after receiving the news
today, Pistorius said: 'Today is really one of the happiest days of my
life! Will be in London2012 for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games!

'Thank you to everyone that has made
me the athlete I am! God, family and friends, my competitors and
supporters! You have all had a hand!'

Pistorius has already made history when competing at the 2011 World Athletics Championships in Daegu. He was part of the 4x400m team there, but was left out when they won silver in the final.

Pistorius was banned from competing alongside able-bodied athletes just before the 2008 Olympics – a ruling he later had overturned.